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BBC - US craft beer: How it inspired British brewers

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Phoney

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Once widely mocked, US beer is now popular globally with hipsters and connoisseurs alike. Why is the world buying in to the American brewing revolution?
Not so very long ago, American beer was a joke. And a weak one at that.
To international tastebuds, it meant bottled lagers like Budweiser, Miller or Coors - commonly regarded by self-respecting drinkers as bland, corporate and lacking in credibility.
An explosion in independently-run microbreweries producing lovingly-created, strong, pungent, flavour-rich ales has transformed the reputation of the product.
But it is not only traditional aficionados of ale who have been won over by this American revolution.
Somehow, beer from the United States has become not just widely respected, but achingly fashionable.
Visit a chrome-surfaced bar in London, Stockholm or Amsterdam and you're likely to find Brooklyn Lager, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale or Odell's porter on tap.
All are craft beers - a catch-all term defined by the American Brewers Association as the product of "small, independent and traditional" producers.
"There's a hipster cachet to it," says Melissa Cole, ale expert and author of Let Me Tell You About Beer. "Craft beer is seen as sexy right now, there's no doubt about it."

read on
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-21541887


Fairly typical sort of article, but what on earth does this mean?

These do not always qualify as "real ales" - a term popularised by British beer lovers when they launched the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra) a generation ago in rebellion against the prevalence of mass-produced carbonated beers.
According to Camra, beer should be left to ferment "live" in casks.
Craft beer, by contrast, is often pasteurised in kegs with added nitrogen or carbon dioxide - a technique which makes traditionalists shudder.
Do they mean the kegs are pasteurized and then carbonated with nitrogen / co2? What's wrong with that?
 

billygoat

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According to CAMRA no extraneous CO2 can be used if it is to be called real ale.
So, if you carbonate a keg using CO2 from a bottle, or you need gas to push it out of the tap, its not real ale. Thats why they use beer engines. There are other things that are specified as well if an ale is to be called real ale.
 

Bribie G

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Non-Brits who have never drunk real ale often have problems getting their heads round the concept, as pasteurised pressurised beers are all they have every known.

Australia is fortunate in that we have a couple of ales that would (and in fact do) get the Camra seal of approval, we are talking about Coopers ales of course as they are bottle conditioned.

Think of real ales as being giant bottles of Coopers except conditioned in a cask and served without extraneous pressure.

Fizzy "dead" beers have their place, for example nearly all continental and international style lagers which would taste quite different if naturally conditioned and served off the wood (although XXXX do a quite nice filtered version).
The problem in the UK was that the big breweries were intent on killing off the traditional beers and replacing them with filtered, pasteurised kegged versions which were a pathetic shadow of the real cask versions. Ask any Pom who still remembers Watneys Red Barrel or some of the regional abominations such as Allbright, Whitbread Trophy or Worthington E.

Edit 2: This is also the reason why the bottled versions of some famous UK ales are usually brewed stronger than the cask "real ale" versions, for example Wells Bombardier or Old Speckled Hen. The cask version, if pasteurised and bottled, would be a bit lacking compared to the fresh beer from the hand pump, so the bottled version gets more ingredients to boost the taste.

:blink:

To be fair, some of the new APA styles actually should have the malt, hops and the strength to present quite well after such abuse but the Poms regard them as a bit of a back door assault on the real stuff.

Edit: The article perpetuates a common misconception about beers such as Bud and Coors based on the way American beer has been labelled - they declare alcohol by weight, not volume. So a Bud at 4% is actually 5% ABV using our own nomenclature. This has mistakenly led to generations of Poms concluding that the blandness of these brews is a result of their low alcoholic strength. Quite the opposite, Bud and Millers at 5% ABV have always been much stronger than run of the mill UK bitters and only a few such as Greene King Abbot Ale or Courage Directors Bitter ever surpassed the mainstream American megaswills.
It also led to the "Canadian Alibi" where Canadian visitors in the USA when arrested for drunkenness and claimed "honeshtly officer, I thought the beer was only 4%" - beer in Canada is labelled ABV not ABW :p
 

Econwatson

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Wow, this forum is a mine of information! Thanks for the information.

As a Brit, I feel really lucky to be able to go down to my local and have three ales on tap to choose from when I'm home, and they are always being rotated. It's only when you leave that you appreciate it! Back when I finished high school we bought a cask of Deuchars IPA, stuck a tap on it, and drank it in a mate's garden, it was glorious! I didn't realise it until I came out here, but ale is a really big thing in the UK.
 

eamonnfoley

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Its not that CAMRA are against kegged beer, it's that kegged beer represented "bad" beer in Britain for so long. So it was highlighted as the point of difference (not correctly so). Kegged beer can be unpasteurised & live (yeast) also. Only difference being cask ale takes in oxygen, whereas keg beer takes in CO2. Oxygen changes the character of the beer which some people like (I dont, prefer real ales fresh).
 

Bribie G

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A lot of the shyte about "craft beer" in the UK is being stirred up by BrewDog who trolled the CAMRA real ale Great British Beer Festival last year or the year before by insisting to enter a keg version of one of their famous beers. Can't remember the exact details but there was a shitfight and BD was blamed for deliberately stirring things up as a publicity stunt.

A lot of slower moving cask beers in British pubs use "cask breathers" which leak a layer of unpressurised CO2 onto the ale as it is withdrawn from the cask, to prevent early spoilage. I've drunk a few Shepherd Neames that way when I was last in the UK and I can't say they were particularly gassy, especially when served through the beer engine

CAMRA are agin' cask breathers, so that's another blur around the edges of the definitions.
 

mje1980

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Ales through an engine have so much more flavour and character IMHO. Shame they're hard to get, and very expensive to get from the uk. Understandable, as they are bulky n heavy.
 

Lurks

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Frankly, the camra brigade are a bunch of beardy cardigan wearing conservative fuddy duddies. A campaign for real beer is one thing but arbitrarily deciding that stuff has to be served from a cask is quite another.

(Course there's nowt wrong with a lovely british beer served via a hand pump)
 

Toper

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I folow a certain beer forum on Fb regularly that has quite a few Brit bloggers as members.The idea that cask is 'better' than keg is still quite prevalent,though not the standard,thankfully.Some of CAMRA's thoughts of what constitutes 'real' beer is nothing short of beer Nazi-ism.They started off as a defender of a certain style,but seem to have progressed (?) to the point of denegration of any other style as inferior ,and potentialy detrimental to the health of consumers.Total bs of course,and a view not held by all CAMRA members,but still an official view of some sub- branches there.And just to give a plug,the Melissa Cole mentioned in the article is a member here,a great ambassador for good beer and food generally.
 

Lurks

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If you were going to insist that the only beer you would ever drink came from a cask, imagine the beer you'd miss out on?
 

Toper

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Chinamat said:
If you were going to insist that the only beer you would ever drink came from a cask, imagine the beer you'd miss out on?
Exactly.And just because a beer is a 'real ale' doesn't make it a good beer,there's lot's of tasteless cask crap beer in the UK.A good beer is a good beer no matter what the serving method.It well might be 'different',but that doesn't make it bad;something CAMRA needs to wake up to.
 

wombil

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Call me an uncultured colonial but,what is the difference between a cask and a keg anyway?
 

Lurks

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One's made out of wood.
 

Phoney

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Wooden casks slowly allow oxygen to seep in and the liquid inside after a while takes on a woody taste - and after several years takes on the colour.

Which is excellent for spirits and wine, not so good for beer imo.
 

Airgead

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Most casks are metal these days.

The main difference is that a keg is served under pressure. A cask isn't.

You hook up a keg to the gas and use gas pressure to push it out. A keg is either served under gravity or they use a hand pump to pull the beer out.

Cheers
Dave

Edit - also, "cask" beer isn't force carbonated. It is cask conditioned. kegged beer is usually force carbed.
 

Danwood

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CAMRA has done some great work helping to halt the march of bland lager-type beers across the UK.

They have to impose strict guidelines as to what constitutes 'real ales', as are traditionally produced in the UK.

Really, it's similar to Germany's Reinheitsgebot...yeast, water, malt, hops and nothing else...exept it was instigated much later. It is still, however, a preservation of traditional, local styles of beer.

I'm sure CAMRA officials drink non-real ales when the session dictates it !

Oh, for a nice TT Landlord from my old local ! Surprisingly, the Coach and Horses, Ringwood, doesn't carry it !!!
 

squirt in the turns

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toper01 said:
Exactly.And just because a beer is a 'real ale' doesn't make it a good beer,there's lot's of tasteless cask crap beer in the UK.A good beer is a good beer no matter what the serving method.It well might be 'different',but that doesn't make it bad;something CAMRA needs to wake up to.
There definitely are cask ales that are universally shit, or at least horribly overrated (Greene King IPA, anyone?), but the role of the pub itself is massive, compared to what's involved in serving a draught keg, which they can basically treat like a giant can of coke.

An important factor in "real ale" is the handling of the cask before and during serving. A pub has to have a decent turnover so that once a cask is tapped, the product is consumed before it oxidizes to an unpleasant extent. I've heard 3 days is about the limit. Obviously a degree of oxidation can change the character of beer in a pleasant or at least interesting way, which those CAMRA cardigans can detect and appreciate and mumble about to each other through their massive beards.

As has been said already, though, props to CAMRA for the good they've done in getting decent, "real" beer through some tough times.
 

Lurks

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Jesus that Greene King is the pits. I'm seriously nostalgic for some proper ales mind. Shepherd's Neame, sigh. Also, in deepest darkest winter, all those seasonal warmer variants. Served at a proper temperature while you warm your wet freezing arse by the huge fireplace...
 

djar007

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Very interesting reading and ifo. thanks all. Is the non co2 carbed beer not carbed at all or is it carbed using other methods. If it is bottle conditioned, I am wondering arounf what percentage attenuation is best practice to bottle an ale to keep it within the guidelines and not create a hand grenade.
 

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